Reflexive Creativity in Urban Politics?


Montaigne Gallery, Shanghai

Many years ago I coined the phrase Urban Subversion that began as an interest in parkour as a creative act of urban re-appropriation. It soon became apparent as I looked for additional ways in which people were interacting with the city in novel and innovate ways, there was a small, but increasing swath of people who were actively reconfiguring their urban environment for sometimes playful, sometimes anti-hegemonic, and sometimes subversive, but always in creative and innovate ways. Nearly 5 years hence, Maria Daskalaki and I have (finally) managed to get the ideas and musings we had about Urban Subversions all those years ago published. In the intervening period, I have witnessed (first hand through my travels and via the relentless march toward information-domination of Twitter and social media) the boom of these kinds of creative engagements become popularised and in some cases, accepted as legitimate and formal urban development policies. The latest piece to confirm this was the ever-excellent PopUpCity claiming that local cultural and creative urban practices have ‘gone global’ (something which I championed last year).

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Spaces of failure

While the media gaze has been on the Olympic site in the East End of London, the new Westfield shopping centre has quietly been rising from the dirt, and today, opens it’s doors to the public. While some have questioned whether a multi-million square-footed shopping megaplex will attract the custom it needs to survive in these ‘austere times’, others have quite rightly argued that it is offering some 10,000 jobs (although how permanent they’ll be is another matter). A quick look at the store list, and even without seeing a single picture or news reel from inside the glittering, shimmering steel and glass simulacra of consumerism you can conjure up an image of pretty much exactly what it’ll be like to walk around this cathedral to capitalism.

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